March 19, 2018

"Reactionary white men will surely be thrilled by [Jordan] Peterson’s loathing for 'social justice warriors' and his claim that divorce laws should not have been liberalized in the 1960s."

"Those embattled against political correctness on university campuses will heartily endorse Peterson’s claim that 'there are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men.' Islamophobes will take heart from his speculation that 'feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.' Libertarians will cheer Peterson’s glorification of the individual striver, and his stern message to the left-behinds ('Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.'). The demagogues of our age don’t read much; but, as they ruthlessly crack down on refugees and immigrants, they can derive much philosophical backup from Peterson’s sub-chapter headings: 'Compassion as a vice' and 'Toughen up, you weasel.'... [Peterson] seems unbothered by the fact that thinking of human relations in such terms as dominance and hierarchy connects too easily with such nascent viciousness such as misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. He might argue that his maps of meaning aim at helping lost individuals rather than racists, ultra-nationalists, or imperialists. But he can’t plausibly claim, given his oft-expressed hostility to the 'murderous equity doctrine' of feminists, and other progressive ideas, that he is above the fray of our ideological and culture wars."

From "Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism" by Pankaj Mishra (NYRB).

"Nancy doesn’t tell us much about what it’s like to be a kid. What Nancy tells us is what it’s like to be a comic strip."

Wrote Bill "Zippy the Pinhead" Griffith, quoted in "Grown Men Reading 'Nancy'" by Dash Shaw in the New York Review of Books. I followed the "Nancy" craze at the time, so it's fun for me to stumble into reading about it today:
Nancy became a touchstone for artists to appropriate, distort, and transform. In Raw, Mark Newgarden’s 1986 comic Love’s Savage Fury depicted a Nancy whose minimal facial features rearrange while Bazooka Joe, a Topps bubblegum package mascot, eyes her across a NYC subway. Newgarden (who worked at Topps and co-created The Garbage Pail Kids) and Paul Karasik (a Raw associate editor and cartoonist who would go on to co-write the graphic-novel adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass) then collaborated on a 1988 essay titled “How to Read Nancy” that deconstructed the elements of a single 1959 Nancy gag in nine ways across eight pages. By isolating elements of the comic, they explored how each piece supported the entire gag—for example, solely the dialogue of the strip; then solely the spotted blacks; then the arc of the horizon line, etc....

Three decades later, in an epic feat of comics fandom, research, and obsession, Newgarden and Karasik have expanded that essay into a 274-page book examining over forty elements of the same 1959 gag.
Whoa! Must buy.
This gag comic strip now joins the ranks of works of art that have entire books dedicated to them. What Newgarden and Karasik have done here is clearly, methodically, often hilariously explained the unique beauty and craft of comics..... [O]ne chapter of How to Read Nancy, titled “The Leaky Spigot,” focuses on the number of droplets placed around the spigot at the center of the strip. Four droplets communicate that there is a great deal of pressure pulsing through the hose. The greater the pressure, the more rewarding Nancy’s vengeance will be. Two or three droplets would not imply this strength of pressure. Five might suggest a malfunction, and would break the graphic symmetry of the design. Karasik and Newgarden also note that the droplets to the right are slightly smaller and therefore in spatial perspective. Every element of the strip is analyzed to this degree of fascinating and humorous detail.
It must have been hard for Dash Shaw to resist quoting the most famous thing anyone ever said about "Nancy": "It's harder to not read Nancy than to read it." I'm saying it because it's harder not to say it than to say it.

Blac Rabbit — Beatles busking in the NYC subway.

It's uncanny. I would be suspicious that they were somehow lip-synching to something recorded if there weren't this whole NYT article about them — "Live in the Subway: Maybe the Best Beatles Cover Band Ever." I'm sure the NYT checked out the authenticity of the effect that seems too good to be true:

"Amiri and Rahiem, who grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, are identical twins... They were raised around music. Their grandfather was a jazz musician. Their grandmother played Beatles records. When they were in high school, she bought them the Beatles version of the video game Rock Band, where they would play along with a controller modeled after a guitar.... The brothers, who live together in Far Rockaway, Queens... lug their guitars and an amp onto the subways once or twice a week. They may play their own music, which they describe as psychedelic rock, in other venues, but on this stage, they stick almost solely to the Beatles. 'Their music is so universal,' Rahiem said. '“I know goth kids who love the Beatles. I know hip-hop kids who love the Beatles.'"

Watch nobody stop:

Here's a little documentary about them.

Cynthia Nixon is running for Governor of New York: "This is a time to stick our necks out!"

She has experience... just not in government.

It worked for Trump.

Drain the swamp! Right??

The day the rise of the robots ended?

1. "A woman in Tempe, Ariz., has died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber.... The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel when it struck the woman, who was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk.... Uber said it had suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto" (NYT).

2. "Facebook FB shares were suffering their worst day in more than five years as the social network came under fire for improperly managing user information when it revealed that a company with ties to the 2016 Trump campaign improperly kept data on an estimated 51.3 million Facebook users for years when it had been required to destroy the data. Facebook claims to have more than 2 billion active users" (MarketWatch).

3. ???

15 years ago today I started a notebook...

The first page, breakfast at a café, knowing this is the day, March 19th, seems like a normal day, but do you remember knowing, this is it, this is the day....


The second page, while eating, lunch at Chin's, which had TVs on the news, and the fortune cookie said, "Those who laugh loud also cry hard":


The third page, I'm home, watching the television as the President informs us of what millions of Americans are doing, quietly, inside our head:


The fourth page, I'm still watching TV, and the President inspires readiness....


"This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked. Monstrous!"

Via AP ("Jim Carrey is being criticized on social media for a portrait he painted that is believed to be White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders").

"[Kamala] Harris was born to two Berkeley graduate students in the fall of 1964."

"Both were immigrants—her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a nutrition and endocrinology student from southern India, and her father, Donald Harris, an economics scholar from Jamaica—and they met 'in the movement,' says Harris; they often took Kamala and her younger sister, Maya, to civil rights marches. They divorced when Kamala was seven, and though the sisters made regular visits to Palo Alto, where Donald lived as a Stanford professor, it was Shyamala who became the guiding force in Harris’s life. Shyamala set 'incredibly high expectations,' Maya says. The Harris girls sang in an Oakland church choir, mastered Indian cooking, and cleaned test tubes in their mother’s lab. They were allowed to watch cartoons only if they simultaneously did something productive, like needlepoint or knitting. 'I have no idea how many blankets Kamala must have crocheted,' Maya tells me. 'She was the mad crocheter.' Harris describes her mother, who died in 2009, as 'a force of nature—all five feet of her,' she says. 'She had a code.' I glimpse some of the same intensity in Harris when I ask if her urge to protect the vulnerable comes from being raised by a single mom. 'I don’t play a violin about my childhood,' she says firmly. The sisters traveled regularly to Jamaica and India, and Harris can recall sitting on the porch of her grandmother’s house in Jamaica for hours, chewing on sugarcane and listening to her father and uncles talk politics. In India, the girls stayed in Chennai with their grandfather, a government diplomat, and their grandmother, who in the 1940s was known for driving through small Indian villages in a Volkswagen Bug, brandishing a bullhorn, and informing women about how to get birth control. 'She was the purest form of the Harris women,' Harris says. 'We’re all diluted versions of my grandmother.'..."

From "Kamala Harris Is Dreaming Big" (Vogue).

Is this at all Trump-related? Bloomberg won't tell.

"Apple Inc. is designing and producing its own device displays for the first time, using a secret manufacturing facility near its California headquarters to make small numbers of the screens for testing purposes, according to people familiar with the situation....
The screens are far more difficult to produce than OLED displays.... The ambitious undertaking is the latest example of Apple bringing the design of key components in-house. The company has designed chips powering its mobile devices for several years....
So for several years, years they've been doing more in-house design. But the news is about manufacturing. How long has that been happening in-house?
The 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the first of its kind for Apple, is located on an otherwise unremarkable street in Santa Clara, California... The facility also has a special area for the intricate process of producing LEDs. Another facility nearby houses technology that handles so-called LED transfers: the process of placing individual pixels into a MicroLED screen....

The complexity of building a screen manufacturing facility meant it took Apple several months to get the California plant operational. Only in recent months have Apple engineers grown confident in their ability to eventually replace screens from Samsung and other suppliers.
A year ago, Forbes ran a piece titled: "Are Donald Trump's Calls To Bring Manufacturing Back To The US Out Of Touch?"
I don’t know if it’s right to call that “out of touch.” It might simply be that Trump doesn’t really understand why manufacturing jobs have declined. It may be that he understands just fine but he’s just saying what his audience wants to hear. Either way, he is either ignoring or denying the reality of rising U.S. manufacturing output. He’s focusing on raw numbers of jobs, and seems to be assuming that trade deals are the reason those jobs have declined, and seems also to be assuming that better deals or different deals or no deals at all would bring jobs back, and not just bring them back, but bring them back to the exact same places where they were lost over the past several decades.

"The Monmouth University Poll... finds a large bipartisan majority who feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a 'Deep State' of unelected government officials."

"Just over half of the public is either very worried (23%) or somewhat worried (30%) about the U.S. government monitoring their activities and invading their privacy."
There are no significant partisan differences – 57% of independents, 51% of Republicans, and 50% of Democrats are at least somewhat worried the federal government is monitoring their activities...

... 6-in-10 Americans (60%) feel that unelected or appointed government officials have too much influence in determining federal policy. Just 26% say the right balance of power exists between elected and unelected officials in determining policy. Democrats (59%), Republicans (59%) and independents (62%) agree that appointed officials hold too much sway in the federal government.

“We usually expect opinions on the operation of government to shift depending on which party is in charge. But there’s an ominous feeling by Democrats and Republicans alike that a ‘Deep State’ of unelected operatives are pulling the levers of power,” [said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute].

Few Americans (13%) are very familiar with the term “Deep State;” another 24% are somewhat familiar, while 63% say they are not familiar with this term. However, when the term is described as a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy, nearly 3-in-4 (74%) say they believe this type of apparatus exists in Washington....

Americans of black, Latino and Asian backgrounds (35%) are more likely than non-Hispanic whites (23%) to say that the Deep State definitely exists. Non-whites (60%) are also somewhat more likely than whites (50%) to worry about the government monitoring them and similarly more likely to believe there is already widespread government monitoring of U.S. citizens (60% and 49%, respectively). More non-whites (35%) than whites (23%) say that such monitoring is rarely or never justified....
Seems like a great issue for Republicans, no? Potential to drive a wedge into Democratic Party constituencies.

"It’s hard to talk about guns, as well as about hunting and farming, at school because no one there knows much about those three topics."

"They’ve been told not to touch or talk about guns, and some of the kids think it is just absolutely wrong for people to own them. That is their opinion, and I respect it and am open to talking about it. But even if people try to be nice, they don’t really want to debate it. At the school I used to go to, a few miles away across the border in Vermont, it was a totally different culture. There were a lot of parents and kids who owned and used guns, and pretty much everyone hunted. And it was a small town where everyone knew who you were.... I think the people who are afraid of guns should talk to the people who are familiar with them, and both should keep an open mind. Even if people on the other side don’t agree, they need to be respectful, listen, be honest and not get upset with the other person."

Writes Dakota Hanchett, a junior at Hanover High School (in New Hampshire), in "Why I Didn’t Join My School’s Walkout" (NYT).

At first, I was thinking, is that the New Hampshire/Vermont distinction? But then I saw "Hanover." As one commenter there says:
Dakota doesn't frame it this way, but Hanover HS is an unusual mix of students whose parents are Dartmouth faculty or Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center staff and students who come from multi-generation farm or working class families in VT and NH. My son graduated Hanover HS and had friends on both sides of this sometimes awkward divide. 
By the way, that commenter goes on to criticize the arguments Dakota Hanchett makes, and in doing so, uses the pronoun "he." Why would you assume someone named "Dakota" is male? I don't think the writer ever says. A reader might easily assume the photograph at the top of the column shows the author. I know I did until I noticed the caption. It's a stock photo of a homely white teenager aiming a rifle. The tip of the barrel is in sharp focus, and the person is way out of focus — symbolically making the argument that it is the gun, not the person, that kills (the opposite of what the Dakota Hanchett argues). I'm not positive that the person in the stock photo is male, but when thought that was a photo of Hanchett, I assumed I was looking at a male.

Other things might make you think you were reading an essay by a male. First, guns, target-shooting, hunting, and butchering seem like masculine interests, though plenty of females are into them too. Hanchett says, "Sometimes I get the feeling these kids are afraid of me because I own firearms." I think (but don't know) that a girl is much less likely than a boy to imagine that other people are afraid of her. Third, if the writer really were a girl, a girl challenging Times' readers' stereotypes, I think the NYT would call attention to that, but then again, maybe they wouldn't in cases, like this, where the girl isn't expressing the viewpoint about guns the newspaper is pushing.

But I think it's interesting that NYT readers assume Dakota Hanchett is a boy. And now I've Googled enough to know the answer. Dakota Hanchett is a boy. Is Dakota more common as a boy or girl's name? I'm influenced by the actresses Dakota Fanning and Dakota Johnson.
Dakota is...the 203rd-most popular name for American boys in 2007, having ranked in the top 100 most popular names from 1995 to 2000.... 1985. It was the 239th-most popular name for American girls in 2007. It has ranked among the top 400 names for American girls since 1991....
That doesn't mean there are more American boys named Dakota than American girls. I think there are fewer boys' names in common use because parents naming girls go in for more creativity and fanciness.

"Here’s a working scientist, contributing alongside her colleagues, and she’s not even given the professional courtesy of having her name recorded at a scientific conference."

"The photo, with her brown face half obscured by the people around her, is a perfect metaphor for the larger issue of history’s failure to record the work of women scientists, particularly women scientists of color."

From "She Was the Only Woman in a Photo of 38 Scientists, and Now She’s Been Identified" (NYT), about what happened after this tweet went up:

(It's strangely hard to fit my usual tags onto this story.)

ADDED: This story brings up a painful memory. Years ago, I gave a talk at a law school (which I won't name). I was the only speaker, and afterwards, they brought in a photographer to memorialize the event, and I was standing with a group of law professors who'd come up to chat and to thank me. I happened to be standing at one end of a group of perhaps 5 persons, and I could tell that the photographer was framing the shot to exclude me.

In Austria, the right-wing wants to bring back the "freedom to smoke."

The NYT reports.
As soon as [the far-right Freedom Party] entered a coalition government last year, [its leader, Heinz-Christian] Strache, vice chancellor and sports minister, promised to step back from a total [smoking] ban, saying he was acting “in the spirit of entrepreneurial freedom.”...

[It] fits neatly with the Freedom Party’s anti-establishment and quasi-libertarian tilt. “Freedom of choice” is the flip side of a far-right agenda that otherwise seems inclined to dictate to citizens, especially those from minorities, everything from whether they can wear head coverings to whom they should marry.
The "flip side" of something "fits neatly" with it? Something odd about that, but I'm assuming the NYT meant to say that. Here's an Austrian right-wing "freedom of choice" tweet:

Maybe anyone who wants to strongarm other people about some things has a flip side that's big on freedom about something else. It's the immoderate personality. Most of us go along with some, but not too much government regulation, and some but not too much individual freedom. But maybe it's the case that the extremist types don't want total freedom everywhere or pervasive government control of everything, but a combination of the two. What makes these extremists right or left is which things they choose for government and what they choose for the individual. Just a hypothesis.
The owner [of Café Fürth], Helmut Haller, 30... said he followed trends in the United States, Australia and Britain and never allowed smoking. “Global coffee culture is a nonsmoking culture,” he said. Still, he said he placed his business in the Viennese cafe tradition, which provided a meeting point for great figures of fine arts, literature and philosophy.

“In Austria we’re slower with change,” he said of his country’s position between Germany and the Balkans. He said that both some residents and visitors had their minds set on a certain idea of Vienna, described with the German word “Gemütlichkeit,” which translates as a broad feeling of comfort or cosiness.

But even many smokers who enjoy a chance to light up see in the ban an opportunity to set themselves free. One was Philippe Mayer, a 41-year-old musician... “It’s like a reward for waking up early,” Mr. Mayer said. But even as he enjoyed his cigarette, he, like his country, had mixed feelings about it. “Smoking gives me a kind of feeling like slavery,” he said. “It would be helpful if it were banned.”
Freedom is slavery!

ADDED: "It is time for you to gather some idea of what power means. The first thing you must realize is that power is collective. The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual. You know the Party slogan: 'Freedom is Slavery.' Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible? Slavery is freedom. Alone— free— the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal. The second thing for you to realize is that power is power over human beings. Over the body— but, above all, over the mind. Power over matter— external reality, as you would call it— is not important. Already our control over matter is absolute.... We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull." — George Orwell, "1984."

March 18, 2018

At the Shar-Pei Café...

Pottery Shar-Pei from circa 100 CE, China

... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.)

"She’ll describe a mint green as 'a color that makes me thirsty,' or perceive 'crushed raspberry' where others might see fuchsia."

"'I like to mix and let them insult each other, have an argument,' she has said, of colors, as though they were guests at a dinner party... 'The color of my childhood was strawberry milkshake,' Mahdavi said recently. She was born in 1962, in Tehran, to an Iranian father and an Egyptian mother.... Iran is one of the wellsprings of Mahdavi’s style. 'I love the contrast between the brutality of the city and the softness of this,' she said one day, showing me a photograph she had taken of a bourgeois living room, its coffee table laden with textiles, pattern upon pattern, and bowls of fruit. Iran, to her, is mirror-work, marquetry, turquoise, faded glory. The country also has the advantage of being comparatively lightly touristed, giving her access to a creative person’s most valuable resource: things that not everyone else has seen. 'Iran is inspirational, because the taste is a bit funny,' she told me. 'They’re very free with their associations, and can often go down the wrong route, like kitsch, but that’s where you have the best associations.' [Her client Adel] Abdessemed described Mahdavi’s style as 'a cross between the chromatism of the films of Almodóvar and a form of childlike and joyous orientalism inspired by Iran.' He said, 'She creates a fantastical version of the East that doesn’t exist in the East, a sort of dreamed image.'"

From "India Mahdavi, Virtuoso of Color/The interior designer’s polychromatic dreamlands."

"Sprinkle the fairy dust of high-sounding words over the ungainly contours of something quite ordinary, and you may be able to transform it into something special..."

"... in the way that a gentle snowfall can turn an ugly tool shed into a dreamy cottage, inhabited by elves. Even if you are running a thrift shop—and yes, it is not hard to find proprietors of thrift shops who identify themselves as 'curators' of their establishments—you too can boast that your shop’s contents are 'thoughtfully curated.' That sounds a whole lot better than saying 'We don’t take used underwear or stuff that has holes in it.' But there is a lot to be said for respecting and loving ordinary things on their own terms, seeing that they are beautiful even without makeup, rather than always trying to tart them up into something grand and gilded."

From "Curate" by Wilfred M. McClay in The Hedgehog Review, via Arts & Letters Daily.

"Well now whoever came up with this idea isn’t any better than the teacher"/"A ridiculous reaction. Why punish the turtle?"/"I guess I don’t understand why they had to kill the turtle."

After a teacher (allegedly) feeds a sick puppy to a snapping turtle in an Idaho classroom, in front of the students, officials kill the turtle. 

uglyfsqhouses — "Gentrification can get ugly."

Some mindboggling architectural ugliness in the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis, collected here on Instagram.

We just got back from Indianapolis, and we spent some time in that area, where there are many old dilapidated houses — even boarded-up houses — alongside some very nicely restored houses and the things you see in those photographs. I've been trying to figure out how the crazily ugly architecture like that can happen. Is there something on real-estate television making real people want things like that? Is it possible that 50 years from now, that sort of thing will seem wonderful the way the Googie architecture of the 1950s sees to us now?

Chuck Todd attempts some joshing about religion with Congressman Conaway, who seems to take religion quite a bit more seriously.

On "Meet the Press" this morning, Chuck Todd introduced Mike Conaway (who is in charge of the Russia "collusion" investigation in the House of Representatives) and Conway immediately remarked that this was his "first Sunday morning show ever" and he "should be in church and Sunday school but I'm here with you instead."

Todd's response was, "I, I, I appreciate that and my apologies to your pastor," which seemed reasonably appropriate, but then Todd brought the subject of religion up again, this time on his own, as he was closing the interview, and this time it felt perhaps less appropriate:
CHUCK TODD: Mike Conaway, I have to leave it there. Republican from Texas. Thanks for coming on.


CHUCK TODD: Missing church this morning. I hope your, I hope your pastor forgives you. I appreciate you coming on--

REP. MICHAEL CONAWAY: I don't need my pastor's forgiveness. I need Jesus Christ's forgiveness.
My first reaction was, wow, Conaway went heavy, when Todd was keeping it light. That is, I thought "I hope your pastor forgives you" was almost silly — like: Of course, "Meet the Press" is more important than showing up for church and Sunday school in any given week. And all Conaway heard was doctrinal incorrectness — That pastor doesn't forgive; forgiveness comes from Jesus Christ. This isn't something casually social between me and the man who happens to be my pastor, but the most important thing in my life, and maybe you don't hear that much on a network news show, but I'm going to say the words in utter seriousness: I need Jesus Christ's forgiveness.

My second reaction was that Todd had contempt for this man. In fact — I encourage you to read the whole transcript — Todd had batted him around throughout the interview, and that last line about religion was a final get outta here. And Conaway heard the contempt and knew how to stand his ground and speak in the language that is understood by the People he represents back in Texas and the Man who represents him in Heaven.

I'm interested in hearing your interpretation. Here's video for more perspective:

"People have asked me for 40 years how not to get sued for sexual harassment. Well, a good first step is..."

"... making sure that sexual harassment doesn’t happen where you are. Especially now, because it’s going to come out. I’ve seen leaders of companies go in front of their employees and say: 'Listen, we’re here to work, not to cater to your social and sexual needs. If I hear you’re doing that, you’re out of here.' It’s pretty strong, but harassment doesn’t happen in those places. And then there are the other companies that have their so-called sexual harassment trainings, and they’re sitting there, going nudge-nudge, wink-wink, making funny comments about the trainers. That’s all H.R. wants us to do today.... Then at the next Christmas party, someone is sexually assaulted.... People can tell when you mean it. They really can."

Says Catharine MacKinnon, quoted in "Catharine MacKinnon and Gretchen Carlson Have a Few Things to Say" (NYT).